Baby-led weaning is when you offer your baby suitable solid foods that they feed themselves. Your baby can take the food they want instead of being spoon fed.
To do this, your baby needs to be able to:
- sit upright
- have good head control
- pick up and hold food
- bring food to their mouth
These skills develop in the majority of babies at around 6 months old.
Some parents try a combination of baby-led weaning and spoon feeds. This can work well, particularly if your baby is less independent in their eating. It can ensure that they eat well and get all the nutrients they need.
Good feeding practices
Many of the ideas from baby-led weaning already form part of the following good feeding practices.
Involve your baby at meal times
Offer your baby similar foods to the rest of the family from an early age. Try to give them a version of the meal you have prepared for the rest of the family, even if it's puréed.
Avoid salt and sauces
Avoid adding salt, jars of sauce or gravies that come in packets.
Giving your baby a taste of food on a spoon is a good way for many babies to practice gripping spoons. They will start to get energy and nutrients from foods other than milk.
Offer your baby suitable finger foods. Talk to your public health nurse if you have any concerns about introducing solids or your baby’s diet.
Your baby's needs
With baby-led weaning, it's important to offer your baby a varied and balanced diet. Your baby needs enough energy to keep pace with their needs for rapid growth. Make sure they are getting the important vitamins and minerals they need.
Your baby’s birth weight doubles by 6 months and triples by 1 year old. This rapid growth and development are not repeated at any other time in their life.
Breast or formula milk will give your baby all the nutrients they need until they are 6 about months old.
From about 6 months, they will begin to need more iron and nutrients than they can get from breast or formula milk.